North Texas Daily

UNT triathlon club makes great strides

UNT triathlon club makes great strides

UNT triathlon club makes great strides
February 27
15:42 2019

While most athletes compete in one or two sports, the members of the UNT triathlon team have an opportunity to compete in three at once. 

The UNT triathlon club has been competing in the USA Triathlon, South Midwest Collegiate Triathlon Conference (SMWCTC), for roughly 11 years now. The club was founded earlier, but due to continuous low member turnout, the club had fallen off and was founded again multiple times.

Within the last several years, a slow but steady growth in their members has brought the club. 

The club competes in around three races a semester and will be competing in an Olympic race this weekend in Austin, hosted by the University of Texas through SMWCTC. 

“Collegiate races are a lot different than other triathlons,” senior club president Gabby Segal said. “There is a lot more energy and a lot more community. Everybody has a team which is not as common in other triathlons, we all know each other because we all race together.”

There are two different types of races that SMWCTC puts on: an Olympic race and a sprint. The Olympic race is a one mile swim, 24 mile bike ride and a 10K marathon. A sprint is exactly the same as an Olympic, but the distances are cut in half.

Triathlon coach and UNT alumnus Ben Drezek prepares to swim laps at the Pohl Recreation Center. Image by: Will Baldwin.

The amount of time the members put in every week toward the sport varies. One athlete could average anywhere from six to 10 hours a week training for their upcoming races.

“Once you start training your duration gets longer by default,” said Ben Drezek UNT alumnae and team coach. “For awhile that’s the fun part of it, then after awhile the hardest part isn’t the race at all, it’s showing up everyday and putting in the work.”

The team is one of the few club sports that has a volunteer coach to help them train for their races. Drezek has been training with the team since the fall after his graduation in 2011. During his college career, he competed against marathoners across the U.S placing second at nationals 2009 and then taking home first place in 2010 and 2011.

Drezek is preparing for his seventh and final Ironman triathlon, one of the largest races within the triathlon community worldwide. The race facilitated by the World Triathlon corporation and consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride finished off with a 26.2 mile marathon.

UNT junior Haeley Shaw runs laps with the triathlon club at the Denton ISD track. Image by: Will Baldwin.

Drezek said he dedicates his life to triathlon training and that his mentality has changed over the years.

“I used to say, ‘I only trained to race well’ and I raced a lot,” Drezek said. “Then a couple of years later, it really has flipped. I don’t have to race, I train no matter what. So the training has taken over. I like the process of getting better.”

While the sport can appear intimidating, all newcomers are welcome. Library information science senior graduate student, Ana Mendoza, said her hard-work, dedication and support from others has built up her love for the sport. 

“I was asked to volunteer at a triathlon and I saw them and thought ‘I could totally do that’,” Mendoza said. “I actually saw UNT people at the triathlon I went and volunteered at and then I went from there. I hired a swimming coach because I actually couldn’t swim that well, then my first run was two weeks later.”

While they run together as a team during the semester, most of the members put in extra time to train for other races separately, due to many races being held in the summer. On her own time, Segal has competed in two Ironman triathlons.

UNT junior Haeley Shaw swims laps at the Pohl Recreation Center wearing her triathlon wetsuit. Image by: Will Baldwin.

“It’s really hard training,” Drezek said. “When you get down to it, it’s just the grind. Mentally and physically. It’s like a big party when you get to go to a race, compared to other sports where you have all this pressure, while you have all of that, it’s a time to enjoy that you worked so hard for months.”

When racing — it’s mentally and physically competitive. Mendoza said the environment of the races are very open with other racers encouraging each other and while it still is a competition, it is important to see all the hard-work and time put in pay off.

“It’s so encouraging,” Mendoza said. “I’ve had people who are top ten in the nation tell me like, ‘you’re doing so well!’ as they’re passing you for the third time. Then you tell yourself, ‘I can keep going, I got this.’”

At the end of the day, putting in the time and effort is something all the athletes enjoy seeing their improvements and finishing their races.

“It’s definitely empowering,” Segal said. “Crossing that finish line, is so empowering.”

Featured Image: UNT grad student Ana Mendoza stretches before beginning her run with the triathlon club at the Denton ISD track. Image by: Will Baldwin. 

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Bayleigh Swanton

Bayleigh Swanton

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2 Comments

  1. Ana
    Ana February 28, 18:50

    Thank y’all so much for coming to talk with us. The small spotlight means a lot. Don’t forget to come run with us!!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Mendy
    Mendy February 28, 19:15

    I love that you have a graduate student competing with the team. It sounds lovely me she s conditioning her mom d and her body well done!

    Reply to this comment

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